Thursday, December 1, 2016

(2016 NaNoWriMo) Captain's Log, The End

Here we are--December 1, 2016--and NaNoWriMo ended as of 11:59 p.m last night. Just like last year, I managed to finish my 50,000 words by November 14, only two weeks in. And just like last year, I couldn't walk away from the draft. I felt compelled to add a few more words here, and tweak a few places there, until I made it to the same word count as last year: 61823. You know this already and I know you know this, but for any new readers (Ha! Like that will happen!) I'm providing some much-needed (and maybe unsuitably placed) backstory here.

I think I've now solidified the fact in my mind that I can write a draft of a novel in less than a month, which means that next year, if I participate in this fun game, I need to find a new challenge.

What is that challenge, you ask?

Some would think that I'd up the stakes and say to myself, If you can write a draft in two weeks, why not one week? But as crazy as you think I am, I am not that crazy, nor do I have the latitude to attempt that challenge. No, the challenge next year shall be for me to adhere to one rule and one rule only:

Stick to the recommended 1667 words a day, and then walk away from the draft until the next day.

What? I know, I know. You're probably shaking your head right now. But if you've been keeping up with me at all over the last 30 days, you know that I have a compulsion to write, especially when a challenge is set before me.

Trying to hit 1667 words a day? I'll go for 2000, just to have a cushion. Oh wait, I'm almost at 2800, so let's make it an even 3000. This year, the kids even got in on this issue. They'd stand next to me and mutter how close I was to the next hundred or thousand, then shoot me a gleeful grin and walk away. They knew I was done for.

In fact, I spent too much time in front of the computer screen for those two weeks, such that at the end of the day on November 14th (and well into the two days that followed), I had a headache. A screaming, full-blown backlash by the group of neurons that inhabit my skull.

Hence, the rule: write the 1667 words and walk away. If I can hold to that rule, then I will be able to do anything. (Famous last words.)

Which brings me back to the whole concept of a challenge in the first place. If you participated this year and won it, great. Fabulous. Good for you! But if you didn't make it to the 50,000-word goal, that's okay, too. And I really mean that, because any number of new words falls into the category of progress. Yes, you and I both know that you're so much farther along in a draft than you were on November 1, right? Sounds so trite, but it's true.

But I'd also like to say that without a doubt, if you didn't meet your goal this year, then next year, I'm sure you'll be able to do so. Just follow these instructions, and you'll find yourself the proud owner of a winner's badge as well.
  1. Get rid of all unnecessary work. I didn't clean my house for two weeks, and while we had food on the table, I also didn't go to the store for a full-fledged shopping run. If it didn't really need to be done, then I just didn't do it. (Keep in mind I still taught, subbed, and edited, so I didn't have eight hour stretches of time in front of me.)
  2. Get rid of your Wi-fi. Okay, I didn't really do this, considering I needed said Wi-fi to help me with some pertinent research. But I used the Wi-fi sparingly. Very sparingly. And some people recommend turning it off on the computer when you write.
  3. Get rid of social media. Absolutely. Do NOT even sign on to Twitter or Facebook or Instagram or your site of choice until you've hit your word count for the day. Really. Or you'll end up spiraling down that rabbit hole so quickly that an hour later, you realize you could have finished those 1667 words but instead, you now know far more about Kanye West than you ever wanted to know.
  4. Get your butt in the chair. Or wherever you write. You can't start writing if you don't stop long enough to try.
  5. Get your hand on the keyboard or on the pencil. Just having the chair doesn't pass muster for writing. Find your utensil of choice, and begin at the beginning (or the middle or the end or wherever you want). Even I've overused Nike's words, but they are applicable now: JUST DO IT.
  6. And finally, always think positively. Even on those days when you're tired and crabby, a few minutes here or there over the course of the day can get you to your word count goal.
And just in case you're a more visual person, let someone else tell you what to do:

Of course now, my friends, comes the hard part: revision.

Good luck!

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